Shelby Harris, the oldest verifiable living resident in Illinois and the oldest man in the United States, will celebrate his 111th birthday today, Saturday, with relatives and friends at the Rock Island Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, 2545 24th St.
Mr. Harris' day will begin with a birthday lunch of his favorite foods — catfish and collard greens, hush puppies, coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob and sweet potato pie.
The luncheon will be followed by a birthday party at 1 p.m. at the nursing home, where ice cream and cake will be served. Friends, relatives and members of his congregation, Second Baptist Church, will attend. Mr. Harris served as deacon of Second Baptist until he was 102 years old.
Mr. Harris will fulfill one of the wishes left on his "bucket list" Thursday when he throws out the first pitch on opening day for The River Bandits A minor league baseball game at 7 p.m. at Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport. Playing baseball and possibly getting married again are two things left on his list.
Born March 31, 1901, in southern Indiana, Mr. Harris first worked in the coal mines of the region. He moved to the Quad-Cities in 1942 before enlisting in the Army during World War II. He later took a job with the former Union Malleable, later the John Deere Foundry in East Moline.
He entered Rock Island Nursing & Rehabilitation Center when he was 105. He has outlived two wives and three daughters. He is a great-great-great-great grandfather. His youngest grandson is 57.
A grandson, Al Hurt, says his grandfather takes good care of himself and still has a good memory. Mr. Harris is a life-long Democrat, having voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Barack Obama in 2008. Mr. Harris credits his longevity to his faith in God.